Obama will work to reign in corporate media, McCain will not

by Josh Nelson

In February I wrote about Obama’s strong stands on media issues. Obama is now bringing more tough talk, with promises to directly go after excessive media consolidation that is not properly serving consumers.

Reuters, via Stoller:

Democrat Barack Obama said on Sunday he would pursue a vigorous antitrust policy if he becomes U.S. president and singled out the media industry as one area where government regulators would need to be watchful as consolidation increases.


“There are going to be areas, in the media for example where we’re seeing more and more consolidation, that I think (it) is legitimate to ask…is the consumer being served?”

The fact that companies are scrambling to complete mergers before a possible Obama administration gives an indication of just how serious they believe him to be.

“People are working quickly to get things done during this administration. They have for some time,” Axinn said.

Leiv Blad, an antitrust lawyer with Clifford Chance, agreed. “It’s generally understood that if Obama wins, that the enforcement priorities of the DOJ would change,” he said.

One part of this Reuters story is pretty misleading though.

Steve Axinn, of Axinn, Veltrop and Harkrider LLP, said firms were wrapping up deals in the belief that any of the candidates — Republican Sen. John McCain, Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton or Obama — would oversee tougher merger reviews than the Bush team has.

The fact is, McCain has a miserable record on media consolidation. In case Mr. Axinn somehow didn’t catch the lobbyist sex scandal, Vicky Iseman was using McCain to grease the wheels for media consolidation. Dana Blankenhorn gets it exactly right.

McCain greased all these moves. He let Paxson slide time-after-time, as he let AT&T slide, as he let Clear Channel slide, as he let Comcast slide. He did nothing to spur new competition in telecommunications, nothing to assure competition in the broadcasting business.

John McCain is the greatest friend monopolists have ever had. He pretends to stand against them, but he enables their every move. He has been doing this for over a decade now, and all the media let him get away with it. In fact, they’re still letting him get away with it.

Anyone who says John McCain will be more aggressive in preventing media consolidation than George Bush has been is either a fool or a liar, maybe both.

Categories: Media/Entertainment

6 replies »

  1. Josh,

    I agree with you that Sen. Obama intends to di what he says. But by what means? A president alone cannot reign in an industry. Whom would he appoint to the FCC? Whom would he appoint to lead DoJ? Will he have a majority in both chambers of Congress to push legislation.

    Appointments to appropriate regulatory boards are key to his ability to do as you suggest. This is why I wrote about the press’s failure to quiz candidates on their appointment intentions.


    Again, thanks for the post. I appreciate your contributions to S&R.

  2. It’s possible Obama will be tougher on consolidation, and there’s no question that McCain won’t be. Really, if Obama does anything this side of pushing for more consolidation he’ll be an improvement.

    And we have to start somewhere, I guess. However, what we ultimately need isn’t just to put the brakes on consolidation – we need some active rollback policies. I know, I know – we’ve all bought so deeply into the lie that nothing – NOTHING – should stand between a corporation and its “right” to grab every penny, regardless of the social, cultural and moral costs, that my suggestion sounds like rank communism. But then, we were a communist country before Reagan took office, if I recall correctly.

    Still, pardon me if I take a “show me” stance on Obama. I can’t help noticing one really important word in the quote from above, one that reveals a great deal about his approach to media corporations. It’s here: “is the consumer being served?” As long as we continue to see people in terms of their commercial value first (and only) we will continue to be fucked and we’ll continue to see pols who promise to fuck us slightly LESS as saviors.

    If Obama wants my heart and soul he needs to talk less about my needs as a consumer and act more on behalf of my status as citizen.

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  4. “It’s generally understood that if Obama wins, that the enforcement priorities of the DOJ would change,” he said.

    Music to my ears, Josh.

    If Obama wants my heart and soul he needs to talk less about my needs as a consumer and act more on behalf of my status as citizen.

    Most eloquent, Sam.

  5. It remains to be seen whether the corporate-militarist elite who run our corporate state will tolerate Obama (or anyone) TRULY “reigning in” corporations. Ever since the 1886 acceptance of the legal fiction of corporate personhood, corporations have been sytematically destroying our pretend democracy, and now, the environment, as well. WE have enabled them to, by not challenging renewal of their corporate charters as well as the whole legal fiction of corporate personhood. So, if Obama is our president, he will need OUR help to reign in corporations, and we will need to change our buying habits (boycotts) and passive citizenship habits (challenging corporate charters and eliminating corporate personhood while fighting for rights of survival – of nature and its human-endangered species as well as of our own species).

  6. EdC.

    The corporation, market, and business class is much bigger than any government. The only weapon a government can really use is over-regulation and excessive taxation. Good corporations and smart citizens always know how to deal with a repressive climate….they move assets and book business offshore, leaving the government nothing. I’ve found some interesting coorelations between the S&P and Obama’s polling numbers. The day the S&P index made it’s all time high was the same day that Obama’s poll numbers were at their lowest. The S&P has an inverse relationship with Obama’s popularity, that I have managed to quantify. Since Obama’s numbers have surged and it looks like he is a lock for the nomination, the market has been in a funk and volatility has increased. It is my opinion that the equities market is afraid of Obama’s proposed treatment of capital gains. Just my humble opinion:)